PAWTUCKET — Both Kandice Ko and Melitzi Torres had hardworking parents who knew that getting a good education was the key to improving their daughters’ futures. Now, both young women are making those parents very proud.
On June 13, Ko will represent Shea High School’s 2011 graduating class as valedictorian, and Torres will serve as salutatorian.
Ko and Torres say they have been part of a group of similar high-achieving friends who have been together since the 7th grade at Slater Junior High. This entire group has earned places at prestigious colleges and universities, including Ko, who has been accepted at Boston University, and Torres, who will be heading off to Brown University.
Ko, the daughter of Maricela and Jimmy Ko, said she plans to major in biochemistry at BU, with the intent to become involved in medical research “and hopefully, find some cures,” she said, with a smile.
Torres, the daughter of Ovid Cantera and Constancia Torres, wants to pursue a degree in civil engineering. She said she was inspired by this field after doing an internship with D’Ambra Construction in Warwick, and would even like to one day be the city engineer for her hometown of Pawtucket. “I definitely would like to stay around…I have a little brother and sister to come back for,” she said.
Both Ko and Torres are National Honor Society members and possess lengthy resumes filled with activities and accomplishments both in and outside of Shea High. Both young women also helped others by tutoring and mentoring.
Among the highlights of Ko’s school career are serving as class president, editor of the yearbook staff, and co-captain of the Mock Trial team, where she received commendations after competing in four “mock trial” events. She also played junior varsity volleyball and participated in the school’s Math League, competing in the Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s annual Math Competition.
The equally busy Torres has been one of the two “Voices of Shea” who make all of the daily announcements over the school’s intercom system, and also participated in yearbook staff, drama club, and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Math Competition. She was also on the Shea girls’ tennis team and outdoor track team.
Outside of school, Torres has participated in Rhode Island College’s Upward Bound program, and has volunteered at the American Heart Association’s Annual Walkathon, and the Learning Community Charter School. She is also heavily involved in the Free Mexican American Association of Rhode Island, where she helps Mexican American youths in goal setting and personal achievement.
Ko and Torres are the both the daughters of immigrants and are the first in their families to attend college. Both also credit their parents with instilling in them the value of doing well in school.
“My parents would tell me, ‘school is your job. That’s all you have to worry about,’” said Ko, who has three older sisters. “They knew the importance of education, and they didn’t want their their kids to have to work two jobs to make ends meet.”
Torres agreed, saying that her parents, who spoke only limited English, always did the best they could to help her and support her.
She recalled feeling like she was essentially on her own back in elementary school when she would come across homework instructions that she didn’t understand. “I remember my mom flipping through the dictionary and my dad asking his co-workers what the words meant,” she said. She added that she hopes to be a role model to her younger brother and sister as they pursue their own educational paths.